How learning with disabilities is improving

Sep 12, 2019 by

The main underlying issue surrounding learning difficulties is first understanding the shapes and sizes in which they come in. People with learning difficulties have a significant, lifelong condition that started in childhood, ultimately affecting their development in the key stages of early mental maturity.

These conditions usually mean that they may need help with understanding certain information, learn new skills and cope independently, all of which can be prevented should the right environment be set up for them.

Approximately 1.5m people in the UK having a learning disability, and of those, around 300,000 are children who may not have developed the coping mechanisms that adults have built themselves.

But those with learning difficulties are still facing inequalities when it comes to education and healthcare, but efforts are being increased to ensure the right amount of support is in place.

Learning difficulty diversity

Although it’s common knowledge that learning difficulties cover a broad spectrum, it can be easy to take them for granted and forget that they can manifest in anyone, no matter how “normal” they may appear to be.

Not being able to read or write effectively is probably the most well-known of reading disabilities, that can carry on later in adult life without consistent support, but naturally it goes far beyond this, with difficulty following conversations or missing social cues, often misreading the flow of social interactions and therefore missing out on information also becoming a barrier to many individuals educational progression.

Those with ADHD often find themselves losing focus whilst doing day-to-day tasks and struggle with organisation, which affects things like memory and running late.

Dyspraxia is classed as a motor disability, so routine tasks such as writing, zipping up pencil cases and can prove difficult for those that have it. Whilst there is no cure for dyspraxia, but medical experts have identified performing coordination tasks consistently such as bowling, rock climbing and swimming to improve manual dexterity.

Ultimately positive reinforcement will be the short-term remedy for helping those who have feelings of incompetence as a result of their learning disability.

Assistive technology

Assistive technology (AT) has came on leaps and bounds in the last decade, so much so, there are now dedicated annual conferences solely based on the industry, such as ATEC Conference. Companies are looking to fully bridge the gap between the number of students with learning difficulties not being able to reach their potential.

These technologies are brought onto the market to make the educational world a more inclusive place, aiming to break down the barriers that hinder the students when it comes to day to day learning.

Generally speaking, AT looks to compensate for an individual’s specific learning deficits as opposed to enhancing current ones. Students are currently benefitting from a wide range such as automatic page turners, voice recognition technology and specially adapted pencil grips to name a few, although new updates to computer software are continuously being tried and tested.

Colleges

Many educational institutions are beginning to get more involved with catering for their students varying needs. Newcastle College, in Newcastle upon Tyne, have partnered up with local charities such as North East Autism Society and Action on Hearing Loss to reduce the stigma attached in a college setting. Not only does this provide a morale-boosting atmosphere, it’s effects ripple such as better Ofsted reports and a higher demand for students to study there.

Xxxx, [job title] at the college says: “We care about the equality of all of our students here and wish to implement the right tools and surroundings for them to thrive in. With 6 dedicated teams to support the students, we understand that everyone has a diverse set of skills and abilities and that ‘one shoe doesn’t fit all’.

“Students can take advantage of our award-winning Autism Academy, which celebrates the diversity that autism brings rather than believing it is a deficit. We hope that other colleges have similar foundations set up in place or inspire those that don’t.”

Whilst there is some time to go yet before those with learning difficulties have the same amount of opportunities as those that don’t, the educational and technological world are coming together to ensure a fair opportunity for all.

Sources

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/assistive-technology-kids-learning-disabilities-overview

https://www.ncl-coll.ac.uk/support/autism-and-asperger-syndrome

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